Monday, February 28, 2011

Wuthering Heights - Feminist Criticism

The feminist criticism is perhaps the perspective that best applies to Wuthering Heights. For one, any personal possessions of a woman goes straight to the husband once she marries. It’s like the woman doesn’t even exist because she has to live under the husband’s name, who now owns her belongings. Thrushcross Grange would have been Isabella’s had she not married Heathcliff but, since she did marry him, Heathcliff automatically becomes the owner. In addition, the wives of men in the novel are treated at times like they’re below the “man of the house.” One example of this inferior treatment in Wuthering Heights is, again, with Isabella. When Heathcliff beats Isabella, there isn’t much she can do within the law to stop Heathcliff because, in order to make Heathcliff stop physically abusing her, she would have to prove (in a court probably partial towards men) that her life was in danger as a result of the abuse. The law back in Brontë’s day really favored men over women and put women at a great disadvantage.
I think the topic that will garner even more attention from contemporary feminist critics will be “the role of film and other popular media in the construction of the feminine gender” (Brontë 451). I remember the very first article our class blogged on about how people are reading less. With more people now turning to other forms of entertainment like watching movies, the creators of movies add their opinions in them and help shape the public’s ideas. Oftentimes, the public isn’t even aware that the shaping process is occurring. Feminist critics, then, will carefully examine these newer and more popular forms of entertainment and make serious efforts to raise the public’s awareness of underlying patriarchal ideology.
Reading the sentence, “French feminists tended to focus their attention on language, analyzing the ways in which meaning is produced,” reminded me of another article that our class read—the George Orwell article. In that article, Orwell talks about the power of language. Since certain words conjure up certain thoughts in readers, the writer can somewhat control their thoughts by carefully picking and choosing the words he writes down. I definitely think language should be one of the main focuses for feminists or, for that matter, any form of criticism.
            Noticing the paired, opposite terms such as masculine/feminine in the feminist criticism section at the top of page 452 reminds me of deconstruction. It makes me think about how the different categories of criticism aren’t completely separate from each other. It even says later in the section, “Categories obscure similarities even as they help us make distinctions” (Brontë 458). We should try to keep in the back of our minds that categories, while useful in showing differences between things, sometimes overlap and share similarities.
I found Lyn Pykett’s feminist criticism to be very persuasive. I liked her part at the beginning about older Catherine’s different names and that “Catherine Heathcliff remains an unfulfilled possibility, a route not taken, although some would argue that this unoccupied term in fact names Catherine’s true identity, and that she acquires this name-role beyond the narrative when her spirit joins with Heathcliff’s to wander the moors eternally” (Brontë 469). That argument reminded me of a humorous comment one of our classmates, Jessica Guthrie, commented on in her blog when she said, “Would they go on ghostly dates? It is fun to think of the possibilities” (Guthrie, “Wuthering Heights Blog 2”). It is interesting to think about different scenarios, like whether or not older Catherine would return Heathcliff’s forgiveness for his ruthless behavior.
I agree with Pykett’s criticism for the most part, but her discussion of younger Catherine and her choice between two men starting at the bottom of page 475 to the top of 476 didn’t really persuade me. Who’s to say that, without the experience of her first marriage, that younger Catherine would have thrown “Jane Austen’s prudence to the winds” and would have chosen to be with someone for love rather than for a high social status (Brontë 475)? The only reason younger Catherine is able to make the second choice—to be with Hareton—is because her first ‘choice,’ Linton, dies. It would have been very difficult for younger Catherine to leave Linton given the patriarchal law that was established then. Nevertheless, after Linton dies, younger Catherine does choose to go with her true nature and decides to marry Hareton, representing a move towards more freedom for herself.


  1. I really like the fact you disagree with Pykett's belief towards younger Catherine. I also thought that she would have married Linton and gotten that higher social status. It's a sad thing, but there is always that thought in the back of a womens head that maybe if you marry a man with potential or money then there will be a secure future. I'm not saying I condone it, but I know that someday I will have children to provide for and bills to pay. I know I will marry for love, but I am not going to lie and say that I have never become just a little more attracted to a guy who has a secure job or money.
    I always catch myself thinking of alternate outcomes of everything I read and wondering how things could have been different. It makes me remember that class discussion we had about Fanfiction. I am creative but I usually end up using the exact same ending as an original author has. I do love to let my mind wonder through what may have been..

  2. I agree with you that, had Linton not died, Catherine would have found it much more difficult to marry Hareton. The laws in those days were so much more restrictive, the women basically BELONGED to the men. Once, past a certain age, a woman showed affection towards a male, they were pretty much assumed to be together.